A Finished Gown!

Next step is the hem. At this point, the net underskirt is hand basted in place and will be removed to made hemming easier. Some sources advise a narrow hem for 4 ply silk crepe but in a skirt this luxurious I chose to use a horsehair interfaced 3 inch wide hem in the center front and two side front sections of the gown. The side back and center back sections were interfaced with bias strips of silk organza. The hem width tapered from 3 inches at the side seams to 1.5 inches at the center back. The narrower hem width allowed the fabric to be eased in along the curved edge of the train.

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Now, with the gown completed, I hand sewed the net petticoat to the bottom of the corslet. Imagine wrestling all this to the sewing machine! There are times it’s just easier to do things by hand.

Now for the lace overblouse. I created a pattern by draping and manipulated the waistline darts into the bust dart and back side seam to avoid disrupting the lace pattern along the hem.

Here is a section of lace. The cat (NOT MINE, thank goodness), chewed one edge, but I was able to work around it.

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How do you cut into 200 year old irreplaceable lace? VERY carefully, allowing generous seam allowances and using a muslin pattern which has been fitted over the gown.

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Seam lines are traced with heavy cotton thread as a lighter weight thread pulls out of the lace too easily.

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The buttons have been covered with 4 ply silk from dress scraps so they will match the gown perfectly.

The lace is backed with silk tulle and the two layers treated as one, just as when underlining.

After sewing the seams I trim all layers except one layer of tulle to 1/4 inch. Fold the raw edge of the tulle over and hand sew, binding the seam as you would do a Hong Kong finish.

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Elastic looping finishes the back.

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To finish the neck edge, I discovered two edges of the lace piece had hand appliqued trim. I carefully clipped the stitches and was left with a length of perfectly matching lace trim. This was simply hand appliqued back in place along the neckline.DSC_0575

View More: http://nicolerochellephotography.pass.us/whitehead

Last item was the veil. Real silk tulle veils are luxurious and pricy but since the bride wanted a shorter length, it seemed a shame to stick a length of polyester net on her head. The edge of the veil would be finished with a narrow silk ribbon. Mokuba has exquisite ribbons and I found a shade of ivory which matched the gown. I had planned on attaching it using fine cotton thread and a fine double needle in the machine. Think again! The ribbon was so soft and the tulle so fine I had a balled up mess. Thank goodness it was on the test sample. Another reason to test, test, test your techniques. You never know when disaster will strike.

The only solution: hand sewing.
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It actually went faster than anticipated and did allow me a great deal of control over the tension of the ribbon on the tulle. Working over a black surface made life easier also.

After the ribbon was sewn along each edge using 80 weight cotton thread, trim carefully along the ribbon edge.

The upper edge of the tulle was simply gathered onto a comb and stitched. An heirloom pin served as the headpiece.

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Finished !

View More: http://nicolerochellephotography.pass.us/whitehead

View from the back, highlighting the luxurious drape of the heavy silk.

gown back in church

32 Comments

Filed under Wedding Gowns

32 responses to “A Finished Gown!

  1. Whitebow

    Amazing. Elegant. Perfect. Does that bride know how fortunate she was to have you for her dressmaker? Thank you for sharing your techniques. I’m so glad I found your blog.

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  2. Amazing! The dress is beautiful and it’s been a pleasure reading everything about your construction of it.

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  3. Georgeous. The dress is a dream.

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  4. Colleen

    Absolutely stunning! Thanks you for taking us through the construction technique.

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  5. Martina

    What a very beautiful dress, and what a lucky bride! Thank you for so carefully documenting all of your exquisite work.

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  6. angela kiely

    You are very talented, your sewing tips and instructions are a joy to behold. How priveledged to make and wear such fantastic cloth.

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  7. Wow, what a feat! It made me nervous just reading about it. I hope the cat wasn’t in the room when bite in the lace was discovered. The bride looks gorgeous! I know it sounds like heresy, but she should let you hack that dress so she can wear it out on her anniversary for the next 30 years.

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    • Thanks Julie. I reassured mom that the cat hadn’t eaten too much of the lace. I think that is the reason for the painstaking preservation; there were fairly large scraps of lace and they are being saved for what the bride’s mom is hoping for: christening gowns!
      She has all the fabric scraps so a dress hack is possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Stunning, thank you so much for sharing!

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  9. What a gorgeous wedding gown! Traditional and modern at the same time, so beautiful. So nice to see the techniques and tips throughout the process.

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  10. I have so enjoyed reading about the construction of this beautiful dress, and it is so nice you can share a photograph of it during the ceremony. It just looks perfect – elegant, complex-but-simple, perfectly fitting. I am sure everyone was thrilled to bits. The cat accident was hideous – thank goodness such a small bit was involved.

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  11. Alex in California

    Magnificent wedding dress. I found your blog today and went back to the beginning and have enjoyed every posting. I do have a question, if it is not in poor taste to ask. What was the expense to purchase all that was needed to make the dress (from muslin to completion)? What you created looks priceless.

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    • This gown was not inexpensive. Good quality 4 ply silk crepe is about $60-$70/yard and the double faced silk charmeuse underlining was about $50/yd. Silk tulle is expensive and difficult to find. I’ve stopped into many shops in the NYC garment district inquiring about it. I’m frequently told “of course we have it,” only to be shown nylon tulle in a color called “silk white.” B and J Fabrics is a reliable source and the silk tulle is 108″ wide and $155/yd. For the corslet I used a specialty fabric designed for corset making called coutil. It is 100% cotton and firm enough to support the gown’s weight. It runs about $40/yd. The cotton underlining was inexpensive, about $7/yd. I also used several yards of silk organza (hem interfacing) and silk crepe de chine (skirt lining). They are about $15-$20/yd. Other items such as silk ribbon, spiral steel boning, horsehair braid, buttons, etc. were around $100. I use loads of muslin and purchase it by the bolt when I have a 40 or 50% coupon at JoAnns. Likewise for the nylon netting.
      The lace I have no idea of the cost. It was purchased several years ago by the bride’s mother and she was saving it for this occasion. The Textile Workshop told her it was handmade, probably about 1820. It was a work of art.
      From what I’ve seen at bridal salons, this gown far surpassed anything, even at the highest price ranges. The bride had very sophisticated taste in clothing and appreciated the difference.
      I hope this is useful and if you need additional info or sources let me know.

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      • I was shopping in London for the fabrics for my daughter’s wedding dress this last weekend (well looking, rather) – the prices were jaw droppingly expensive! Chantilly lace was well over £200 per metre but it is wide; more if beaded etc. . I felt rather paralysed for a while but it’s still only fabric so I bought some practice materials. The expensive stuff comes much later! We’re looking at double faced silk crepe for the skirt. That’s about £100 pm.
        You’re tutorials are priceless, thank you. I don’t usually comment as I don’t feel able to, ability wise, but just to let you know I appreciate them.

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      • John Yingling

        Cotton coutil, that sounded familiar, and after checking tutu.com (the web site for all things ballet) it is used in ballet tutus just as you did in your gown. As a cheaper and easier obtainable substitute I have used cotton duck from Joann Fabrics, for ballet corsets, not wedding bodices! Note that tutu.com sells their coutil for $13/yd, 60″ wide. Also if you need larger hooks and eyes, they have those too. I buy them by the gross in the fall, in preparation for the frenzied “Nutcracker” season, and all the alterations needed for the 100+ performers in the ballet. Oh yeah, beautiful work on the wedding gown with intelligent solutions and exquisite craftsmanship! The bride chose well!

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      • Thanks for the tips. $13/ yard for coutil is much less expensive than other sources. I will definitely check out tutu website. I would love to see the inner workings of those beautiful tutus.

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  12. Your work is exquisite, thanks for sharing the pictures 🙂

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  13. Perfect! No designer, or manufacturer could have made it as nice. The lace sure caught my eye.

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  14. Thank you. The lace was amazing and a work of art in itself.

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  15. Mary, like you, I love couture sewing and love reading all of your blogs! What a fabulously classy dress you created in both its complexity in the construction as well as the simplicity in design! Would you mind sharing how you decided on the methodology for hemming the gown – it’s absolutely brilliant! Thanks again for continuing to share your knowledge with us.

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    • After basting the hem I evaluated the look and decided the front half of the gown would look better if it had a little more body. Adding wide horsehair braid provided the right solution. Horsehair braid in the back prevented the train from draping softly so I decided to eliminate it from the side back and center back sections. I find much of couture sewing involves making decisions as I go along. I know the look I’m trying to achieve and have an arsenal of techniques to produce that effect. Thanks for your compliments.

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  16. Mary, I have purposely been waiting to read this post so that I could give it my full attention, and I am glad I did – the gown is exquisite in every way. The 1820 lace is remarkable, and I am so impressed with how it is shown to perfection with the style of the gown. Can’t quite imagine how nerve-racking it must have been to cut into it. You – and the bride – must be so pleased with how it turned out – it is pure elegance.

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  17. Thank you. The goal was to create a classic gown which would showcase the lace. No glitz or frills, just elegantly simple using exquisite fabrics.

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